In Matthew 8 we come on a story of when Jesus heals a leper, it’s an incredibly short story and one that is so easy to pass over and miss. But it’s so important that we stop and linger here in this place. There is so much to this story, from this man’s desperation that causes him to break every law of his culture to draw near to the only one who could help him.
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Why Jesus Heals A Leper Is Important For Us
Several years ago now we walked down the road of foster care, for years our family had prayed for more children, we prayed about adoption and getting into foster care and then one day there we were with a two-year-old and a newborn ready to provide for them and love them on this stop of their journey.
But they forget to tell you just how exhausting this road is when they attempt to prepare you for this journey. Somewhere in the curriculum and smiles, they forget to tell you that as you begin to love the rough places off these kids, you’ll find rough spots of your own.
They neglect to mention that your heart is going to be broken, not once but over and over as you begin to peel back the layers of these children. They forget to tell you that these kids will teach you things, you never knew about the world or yourself.
They forget to tell you how these kids will open your eyes to the darkest parts of the world we live in, will bring it in crystal color with them. Not in a convenient way where you can ignore it, or get away from it but into your living room. Like why a two-year-old doesn’t have clothes that actually fit him. Or why he can only say 3 words. Or why he doesn’t cry when he is dropped off at complete stranger’s home. Or why he wakes in the middle of the night screaming as if the monsters under his bed are real and out to get him.
They forget to prepare you on how to keep the horror off your face the moment you try to help little feet into pajamas and find a ring of purple fingerprints around his ankle. All of the training doesn’t prepare you for the early dawn hours as you lay on the carpet in absolute exhaustion as a two-year-old clings to your hand as if it were a lifeline as he sleeps.
They forget to tell you how to respond when well-meaning people cheer for a “successfully” reunited family, and they don’t tell you what to say when people comment on your family photos and say you looked happier before… They forget to tell you how to breathe when your heart is in a thousand pieces, and your lungs are clamped in an iron grip, and your life feels like a bomb has gone off and shattered the tender normal that’s taken root. They don’t tell you that the look in a two-year-olds eye as you drive away for the last time will haunt your dreams.
I remember the day the youngest left our care, a storm raged outside, but something drove me to our church that night. I was hurting, I was angry, I didn’t understand, but I knew I had to go. I sat in a dark corner and cried as the music poured over my soul. Sometimes the only words you can whisper in a moment like that when everything has been destroyed is “You are still good” and “I still trust you” but I’ve learned that it’s enough.
It’s taken a lot of years to be able to see the good in that dry season, yes it’s still raw, the pieces aren’t all back together, and they don’t look like they use to but the dry season changes each of us. It’s here like in the deep water that our faith is forced to grow, or wither. Where hope will live or die.
This season lays bare, it rips open places we thought were buried deep and “dealt with.” The wasteland can easily be the place that we abandon His call, it can be the place that breaks us, it can be the place that sends us dashing back to our fortresses. Or we can walk out the other side stronger.
For 6 agonizing beautiful months, we were family to two sweet, incredible little boys. Two children that God brought into our home for a brief time. No, they probably won’t remember us, perhaps we didn’t change anything in their lives in the long run as some have pointed out.
Only God knows what the fruit of the dry season will be. Sometimes we are privileged to see it on this side of heaven, sometimes we just have to wait.
For 6 months two precious little children knew safety, they knew warmth, they didn’t have to wonder if and when the next meal was coming, they knew unconditional love and family. But perhaps they were brought to us for another reason, maybe they were brought into our lives to chase us from the fortresses we’d retreated behind so God could deal with the rough places we were trying so hard to hide.
It’s impossible to love from behind a wall, it requires stepping out and risking getting hurt. 6 months may have been a drop in the ocean, but He takes our small offerings and uses them in ways only He can and this is where the story of when Jesus heals a leper comes into sharp focus. The truth is that on the service this story isn’t all that impressive. But once you linger, once you dig into this story of when Jesus heals a leper a little bit we find such a wonderful lesson for our own dry seasons.
The Story Of When Jesus Heals A Leper
We can allow the pain, the emptiness we feel to make us much like the story of when Jesus heals a ————- in Matthew 8, we can enable our problem, our situations, our circumstances, to become a banner under which we live. We can allow it to become like a disease that permeates every inch of us turning what had been flesh into unfeeling stone or we can do what this man did, and seek out our savior.
There is no shame in returning empty, in finding yourself in a wasteland, but don’t stay there. So often we allow the pain of “empty” to drive a wedge between God and us. We let it drive us behind a self-imposed wall in a useless attempt to hide from the pain, the questions, the shattered places to keep you from your savior’s arms.
We allow it to become an excuse for staying locked behind solid walls. Plug back into Him, and fill back up. Let God pour over your bruised soul like a soothing balm. This is one of the biggest lessons we can learn from the story of when Jesus heals a leper in Matthew 8.
Jesus Heals A Leper Bible Verse
We find this story of Jesus heals a leper in the book of Matthew chapter 8, where we are immediately dropped into this man’s encounter with Jesus:
When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:1-2 NIV
In Matthew 7 we learn that Jesus has been teaching the people, so as we step into chapter 8 we see that He is coming down from the mountainside with a large crowd following. It’s here that we are introduced to the leper that Jesus will heal.
By law an unclean person such as this man in the story of when Jesus heals a leper had to: “wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” Leviticus 13:45-46 NIV
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Matthew 8:3-4
This man had no hope, but in that instant, he met his hope. Like the woman with the issue of blood, he had no chance of healing. He was beyond all human help until he met the great physician.
What Is A Leper According To The Bible
To really understand the significance of what just happened in Matthew 8, you have to understand what leprosy is. Leprosy is an infection of a slow-growing bacterial called Mycobacterium leprae. This disease can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose. Leprosy literally takes away your ability to feel, even a small cut could kill you because you couldn’t feel it if it got infected.
Having leprosy was a life sentence, there was no cure or treatment at that time for this condition. Instead, a leper would live the rest of their life away from his community. He wouldn’t bit by bit lose his sense of feeling, forbidden from returning to his home, or family. He would live forever exiled.
How Were Lepers Treated In The Bible
Leviticus 13 explains how this man had to live, as a leper he was unclean which meant he had to live away from everyone else, he couldn’t touch anyone or anything, or they would become unclean, so he had to stay 50 paces away at all times and if anyone came near he had to announce loudly his condition so they could move away from him.
Who Was The Leper In Matthew 8?
The story of when Jesus heals a leper in Matthew 8 doesn’t give us the name of this man. He is only remembered by the issue he had, it had become his identity. In essence, he was a dead man walking -he had no name, there was no cure, this was it, this is how he would spend his life-. He was unclean, he was cut off from everything and everyone.
How Did Jesus Heal A Leper?
We aren’t told what prompted this encounter of Jesus healing the leper in the Bible to come into Jesus’s presence; an act that could have gotten him stoned. We don’t know what gave him the courage, or the desperation to risk his life 0and kneel at his savior’s feet. But we do know what happened when the man with no name, came to the name above all names, it washed away every other name. It flooded over his wasteland and resurrected what had been buried.
With a single touch Jesus heals a leper, he restores him in a way no one else could. Jesus met him there in that place as he did with so many others. Jesus was there for him, just him. This was his moment, his radical encounter with the one who knit him together in his mother’s womb. Jesus was here for him…
What We Can Learn From When Jesus Heals A Leper
Do you need that same name to flood into your dry season as in the story of when Jesus heals a leper? To wash away the words that have become you “void” “spent” “dried up” and the walls you’ve built? Do you need a savior like this man that can feel when you can’t? You see when what is dried up comes to the living water, the void is filled.
A wasteland cannot exist, where He is poured over the soil. He is the living water that brings life to the dead places in our lives. He removes our hearts of stone and gives us a heart of flesh once more so that we can feel again.
Maybe we don’t have physical spots on our skin like in the story of when Jesus heals a leper, but how many of us have secret spots? How many of us have become numb and wounds that should have been dealt with have been allowed to fester? How many of us are living in exile behind walls trying to hide from the pain?
The Story Of Jesus Healing A Leper: God Is The Answer
The first touch this man felt on his skin, was the touch of the one who had clothed him in flesh. The one knew every hair on his head, the God who sees. The God who knows. The God who saw every moment of his life, who knew every lonely night he spent alone. The one who walked with him when he felt alone- this was the first touch he felt.
The story of when Jesus heals a leper is a reminder of who our God is. God is I Am, I Am the answer to your need. I Am the water in your dry season. I Am the shepherd, who cares for you. I Am your protector. I Am your comforter. I Am your healer. I Am your provider. I Am the one who sees you when the world has turned its back on you. I Am the one who hears your cries. I Am the one who restores you. I Am the one who has walked with you through the hardest times in your life. I Am the one who created you. I Am the one who loves you. I Am your savior. I Am your God.
Your need will change along the journey, but He will always, always be the answer; just like in the story of when Jesus healed a leper. Tuck back into Him. Allow His touch to bring feeling back to the dead places. Sometimes the wasteland looks like a grave, but He is the resurrection, and He is about to flood through the dry season. Stop hiding from the one thing that can bring life back to the wasteland, run to Him. Reclaim the wasteland, peel back the places that have grown hard, and allow Him to fill you once more.
Leprosy kept this man separated from people, it tried to keep him from the one person that could save him. Our dry places can act in the same way keeping us from the only one who can restore and mend. But to come to our Savior’s feet requires we come face to face with the pain, and regret, and confusion, and dysfunction, and allow the mask to fall away so that He can pour back into all of the places we’ve let stay empty. This is the lesson of the story of when Jesus healed a leper.
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